New Breast Cancer Screening to Speed Up Diagnosis

The Government has pledged £10 million to speed up breast cancer diagnosis and treatment.

The UK government has pledged an additional £10 million to provide 29 new NHS breast cancer screening units and nearly 70 life-saving upgrades to services in areas where they are most needed. The investment includes 16 new mobile breast screening units, 13 additional static units, 58 live remote access upgrades for existing units and 10 software upgrades to carry out ultrasounds and X-rays.

Minister of State for Health, Helen Whately, said: “Catching cancer early saves lives. Last year 100,000 people were diagnosed with cancer at stages 1 and 2. This is the highest proportion on record but we want to do better still. These breast cancer screening units will mean more people can get checked for cancer, closer to home.”

The Government say mobile units will be used flexibly to target areas which will most benefit from increased opportunities for screening and the static units will be placed in areas to improve accessibility, uptake and coverage. Those areas with existing units will also benefit from upgrades to improve screening by using the latest technology, ensuring the best possible care for patients.

This funding should help increase screening rates among women from communities and regions where uptake is lowest by improving facilities in both fixed and mobile locations, making it easier for more women to get checked.

Steve Russell, NHS national director for screening and vaccinations, said: “Screening is vital in detecting breast cancer early and getting better outcomes for patients, and this further investment is great news for improving access to breast screening services for women across England.”

The commitment to provide additional breast screening units was made in the Women’s Health Strategy published in July 2022 which is designed to improve equality of healthcare. The Government has also committed to improving diagnosis, treatment and survival rates as part of the NHS Long Term Plan. By 2028, the Government has committed to 75 percent of people with cancer being diagnosed at stages 1 and 2, up from 55 percent and for 55,000 more people each year to survive their cancer for at least five years after diagnosis.

Continued investment in mobile breast screening units is one of the best ways to increase capacity – screening saves around 1,300 women every year with around 21,000 cancers detected.

Response from civil society

Ciarán Norris, Head of Campaigns and Public Affairs at Macmillan Cancer Support, said: “We welcome any intervention that helps to speed up diagnosis and improve access to cancer screening services, particularly in areas where they are most needed, as we know the earlier someone is diagnosed the better their outcome is likely to be. Alongside this, we also look forward to working with the government on steps to grow and sustain the cancer workforce, to ensure our cancer services can provide timely treatment and care for everyone living with cancer, both now and in the future.”

This government have said they will continue to work with the NHS across cancer alliances, and continue to invest in innovative ways to improve cancer screening, diagnosis and treatment. The funding is now in place for NHS trusts to spend within the 2022 to 2023 financial year and the timing for delivery of units will be individual to each trust.

Final thought

Overall the investment seems welcomed news by patients and civil society organisations. The additional investment should benefit tens of thousands of women by speeding up cancer diagnosis and improving outcomes for patients. With the new units and service upgrades, more women could be screened earlier, tackling health disparities and improving diagnosis rates in line with the NHS Long Term Plan.

With slipping cancer targets and the problems facing the NHS, the Government will need to commit further action to improve treatment and care in oncology. Utilising innovation from the life science sector should be at the top of Mr Barclay’s agenda, as proposed in Curia’s NHS Innovation & Life Sciences Commission. To watch the launch event of the Commission’s 2022 report, see below:

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